If you listen to the long-time members of Toastmasters, you may hear this:
“He went through the CC too fast.”
There’s no time limit to the Competent Communicator. You could go to 10 club meetings and give 10 speeches in one day and you’ll get the CC. I personally would be exhausted by that kind of crazy, but there’s no rule against it. But rushing through the program has some serious drawbacks.
Today on the table, we talk about getting through the DTM before the Revitalized Education Program changes everything – how not to waste your time – either by going too fast, or by going too slow when we don’t have to.
There are 2 things to guarantee you’ll be a better speaker in six months. There are 2 conditions for those to work.
- The first condition:
We need to listen as much as we need to speak.
Giving yourself the opportunity to watch other speakers gives you the opportunity to learn from their mistakes – and their successes.
I was talking to Katherine Burik of the Stark Community Toastmasters about a speech she was preparing to give to a group of realtors about public speaking. The idea had been given to her to show up looking unprepared. If you’ve seen Ivan Beggs at the District TLI or the Southern Make-Up TLI this summer, you know he did this to make a point. Ivan made it work because we all know how good he is – we know he’d never really show up with his shirt untucked and his tie all twisted. His credibility is already established. I suggested to Katherine that as this crowd doesn’t know her, starting out looking incompetent is not a good way to build confidence in an audience.
Now, that’s an extended case. I’m mentoring Katherine based on what I saw Ivan do. But we’ve all seen those speeches that made us make a mental note “DON’T EVER DO THAT” as well as “I have GOT to try that.” Rushing through means seeing fewer speeches – less opportunities to learn the good and the bad by example.
- The second condition
We need to evaluate others to learn speech analysis so we can apply it to our own speeches.
We get too close to our own work. There’s an old writing adage –
Kill Your Darlings.
Hard advice. We write that beautiful turn of a phrase and no matter how hard it is to say, we just keep it in there… We love it. We can’t let it go.
But when we evaluate others, we learn to pick up on those sorts of things. We can learn to recognize that phrase that works on paper – but not in speech.
When we go through the Competent Communicator, we learn those steps – research, how to say it, get to the point. So when someone makes a great speech, you want to praise them for it… and do it yourself. Other times, we have to find a nice way to make that speech’s flaws into points of growth – sometimes that takes all of the time from table topics and all the way through the other evaluators’ time to craft a diplomatic way to say it.
Speakers want good evaluations. I really believe that. We don’t want fluffy statements of how good we are – we want honest opinions about what worked – and what didn’t. However, I’m convinced that the real beneficiary of evaluations is the evaluator. After analyzing others’ speeches, speech writing changes – for the better. That’s an unspoken but interesting part of the Toastmasters experience – we get to learn from other’s mistakes. More actively, we benefit – possibly more than the speaker – when we give an evaluation. That analysis we put into evaluations creeps back at us when we’re writing our own speeches and crafting our presentations. So the time when we’re not the speaker is just as valuable as when we are.
So what are we doing with a blog and podcast dedicated to getting people through the DTM track quicker than the average 8 point something years?
It may come down to why we want to get the DTM award.
If you’re a big fan of the Distinguished Club Program, you could say that the DTM is worth it to the club. That a very altruistic way to look at it.
Surely the DTM has personal benefits like the intrinsic nature of achieving a difficult goal.
For some, the DTM is simply the goal that’s placed out there and we’re competitive enough, or driven enough, to go get it. The intrinsic value of learning better speaking techniques and improved leadership skills is the result of getting that DTM, not the other way around.
I suspect I know a couple of people who are like this. That’s okay. It’s a valid reason to get any goal. Ask any football player – is the goal to win, or is the goal to make amazing plays that might not get the victory?
There are others who embrace the self-improvement aspect of Toastmasters, who strive to make every speech matter, who take each role extremely seriously and make every effort to grow in all they do. We all know who they are – and respect them for their dedication.
Which type do you think you are? I think we’re all somewhere in between, for the most part. I freely admit that when the goal was put in front of me by Terri Fullmer, I thought it would a good challenge for me to go for a goal that looked close to unachievable. I got a bit competitive with myself. At the same time, I thought – this could be fun.
Did finishing it sooner make it better? Nope. Would finishing it later have been better? I wonder about that. Am I going to become one of those DTMs? Who repeat the same mistakes, over and over, evaluation after evaluation? Who makes the excuses, the reasons, or the apologies for not improving? I wonder what those DTMs started out like, if this is how they’re presenting now. And then I go to confession for being judgmental.
But it’s a valid point: we need to be wary of rushing through without concentrating on improving ourselves.
However fast we’re choosing to go on our Toastmaster journey, I think there are two key actions we can take to improve our speaking skills. These aren’t just for the DTM-track toastmasters – a new member can use these two tricks as well.
Tip # 1.
Ask for a specific evaluation.
When giving a manual to an evaluator, make sure to mention what skill you’re working on. Write it on the top of the evaluation page in the manual. Ask them to be as honest as possible. I ask for “killer” evaluations. I know I won’t improve until someone tells me what I’m doing wrong. Lightweight, fluffy evaluations have no value to me. I’ve noticed that the speakers I admire most also crave this kind of get down and get dirty evaluation. It’s not meant to be cruel, and it shouldn’t be personal, but I need someone to be exacting and tough on me for me to grow.
Journal your speeches.
Do you write out your speeches in advance? I have a typed copy of almost every speech I’ve ever given. I wish I had taken time right after I finished to write down my own perceptions about how I’d done, what I wish I’d done better. I think that kind of personal feedback and reinforcement would have improved my skills faster. Combined with copying the points of growth, I would have a roadmap to follow for future speeches.
Today, I was challenged to explain the Big Idea behind my blog and podcast. Big ideas are compelling. The audience wants to see how the Big Idea changes how we see the world, and becomes a Big Promise in how we can change it.
While I’m here to help you to find a better way to get to your DTM, it’s up to you to foster your skills so that you’re not the DTM who’s still apologizing for the same mistakes.
The answer to the question is: The Big Idea is to help our members achieve their personal goals by using the Toastmaster awards as a metric. The Big Promise is that the members will improve – if they are willing to make the effort toward improvement. These two tips – specific evaluations and journaling – will help you, whether you want that DTM – or not.
So as I’m encouraging you to move quickly down the DTM track, I have to consider what the benefits of the DTM are to you. I can’t make you more or less competitive. I can’t make it more or less fun. But I must do is make it most effective for you. Asking for specific evaluations and journaling your speeches while recognizing that you’re responsible for your own growth – by watching and evaluating others – will make you a great speaker and DTM.
Thanks to Toastmasters District 10 for sponsoring On the Table and having the world’s only DTM Mentorship program. We admit that the advanced awards and Distinguished Clubs are important, but your improvement is our driving motivation in what we do.
Just a reminder – the District 10 2014 Fall Conference is early this
year, so check out the District10.org website for the details. Darren LaCroix will be with us as our keynote and will have a special program on Friday night – you won’t want to miss that! Stage time, stage time, stage time!
You can find our podcast notes at our blog and podcast site at onthetablepodcasts.com. That’s on the table p-o-d-c-a-s-t-s .com slash 02.
Music is from incompetech.com